ABL performed tests on its RS1 launch vehicle in October.

ABL performed tests on its RS1 launch vehicle in October.

Rocket manufacturing startup ABL Space Systems Co. has yet to complete a mission, but the El Segundo-based company already has a major customer in Lockheed Martin Corp.

Lockheed Martin announced April 5 that it will purchase up to 26 launches through 2025 aboard ABL’s RS1 launch vehicle, a compact spacecraft designed for relatively low-cost deployment of small satellites.

As part of the agreement between the companies, Lockheed Martin will have the option to purchase an additional 32 launches up to 2029.
 
“We designed RS1 with flexibility in mind,” ABL Chief Executive Harry O’Hanley said in a statement. “We can serve a wide array of missions from many different launch sites using RS1′s large payload capacity and deployable ground systems.”

The new agreement with Lockheed Martin comes just weeks after ABL announced that it had completed a $170 million Series B funding round that valued the company at $1.3 billion.

ABL was founded in 2017 by Dan Piemont and O’Hanley, a former engineer and manager at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

With more than $219 million in funding and a potentially lucrative contract with Lockheed Martin (an early investor in the business), the company appears well positioned to emerge as a major competitor to SpaceX and other launch providers.

ABL said in March that it had already secured 10 separate customers for future launches and that a first flight test for its RS1 launch vehicle would take place later this year.

Its latest customer, Lockheed Martin, is also an early investor in ABL and participated in a $49 million funding round completed last year.

The missions planned with Lockheed Martin are expected to take place at multiple launch complexes around the world, including California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base.

ABL has developed a launch system called GSO which enables it to transport its RS1 launch vehicles around the world using conventional shipping containers.

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